Thinking on Your Feet – A Page from Memory

clock-64265_1280I was in Bangalore a few months back and this is where I started my career years back and felt like going down that memory lane and picking some old episode.

I started my career selling computers. We used to buy parts and assemble PCs, Provide a Warranty to customers and sell and support them. This was the 90s in India before the boom of Laptops. The time when we lived through the XTs, 286, 386 and 486 SX and DX processors and on to the Pentiums. It was a time in India when the Hardware sales was the focus in laying down the Infra for Software to emerge as the big thing. A time when a 1 GB Hard Disk was a luxury that raised eyebrows and Memory (RAM) was 256 KB, 512 KB or a max of 1 MB made of four 256 slots.

This was a time when we regularly attended events showcasing our range of PCs with readymade quotes stacked up where we would put last minute offers and take orders to be delivered. It was a big Price war back then. On one side we had the Branded PCs as they call it, the likes of Wipro, HCL, PCL and on the other side we had the unbranded assembled lot like us who named the companies after their own name or some even in their Dog’s name. But branded or branded everyone used intel chips and seagate hard disks. The difference really was about money and muscles and bulk business and stickers with logo.

So everyone stood tall with their offerings looking the best time to undercut competition or up sell the customer. Our offering in this event in 1995 was a PC with a 3 years warranty to get an edge over the prevalent one year warranty that many offered.

As we stood in our booth a gentleman comes over and asks me “Oh! you give 3 years warranty? Nice… but your competitor (he names) gives a life time warranty on their computers, can you give a lifetime warranty on yours?”

To give you a background during these events we always had an eye in the competitors booth and also sent people to go and find out what is being sold, prices and offerings so we can stay competitive and get maximum orders booked. But this was news to us and we had to answer immediately and get going.

A lifetime warranty is the most ambiguous thing I had heard back then and for a small player like us it would mean we just live (or die) on free support after the sale. These are times when you need to think on your feet because at times when a question such as this is thrown in the open, people (big brands) would silently wait for an answer and see how disastrous we small time players would turn out to be.

I looked at the prospect and asked “Sir, Did they say whose life time are they talking about? yours, theirs or their computers? And what if their computer’s life time is only just a year?” As I waited for him to respond or take his time to leave I also added “And sir… with us we certify that for 3 years we will take care of the Computer irrespective of who lives.. thats our written contract”

As he left without saying a word one of my colleagues came to me and said “he is not a real prospect, he is just another spy from some competitor” Well nice, I wish him best…

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